January 2007 Archives



I had originally intended this blog to focus primarily on new coinages, to be a resource for early citations for dictionary makers and such. 'Cause, y'know, I figured I already knew most of the existing words that were worth knowing. But most of the really new coinages that I encounter aren't that interesting to me--they're often just variations on existing words, with meanings that are obvious at a glance--whereas it's turned out that a high percentage of the words I encounter that I wasn't previously familiar with have been around for quite some time.

Case in point: "vaticination."

I'm finally reading Tristram Shandy, and finding a variety of words I don't think I've ever seen before. Early on in the book, there's a parson named Yorick, and a friend of his tells him that by his plain-speaking he makes too many enemies, who will one day do him harm. The narrator continues:

Yorick scarce ever heard this sad vaticination of his destiny read over to him, but with a tear stealing from his eye[....]

--chapter XII, p. 32 of the Everyman's Library edition

A vaticination is a prediction, or the act of predicting. Comes straight from Latin.

can of corn


In a submission, I encountered the phrase "can of corn" as a baseball term; hadn't heard it before, so went and looked it up. Apparently it refers to a baseball hit in such a way that it's particularly easy to catch.

John Marshall, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "Answer Guy," says that there are several possible origin stories for the phrase. The most accepted one, he says, is this: In olden times, "[...] a grocer would use a stick to tip a can of vegetables off a high shelf, then catch it in his hands or outstretched apron."

A British site, The Phrase Finder, gives a somewhat different explanation: it repeats a story to the effect that the phrase refers to a shopkeeper lightly tossing a can of food to a customer, and notes that it's a can of corn because the outfield is sometimes called "the cornfield."

But the P-I answer sounds better-researched.

Also, the Phrase Finder answer claims that the phrase was first used by announcer Red Barber, but the P-I answer says it was first used in 1896, which was twelve years before Barber was born.

Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)


Apparently the term "UFO" is out; in its place, "UAP," for "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena," is gaining popularity.

Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune says:

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (the term that extraterrestrial-watchers nowadays prefer over Unidentified Flying Object) was first seen by a United ramp worker[....]

--"In the sky! A bird? A plane? A ... UFO?", by Jon Hilkevitch

But other sources suggest that the "UAP" term is actually an older term, and TSOR hasn't led me to anything definitive one way or t'other. Any thoughts?


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Sarah told me she was groggy this afternoon, and I asked "From too much grog?" and the ensuing discussion led me to realize I didn't know where the word "grog" came from.

Turns out, believe it or not, that it's an eponym: comes from "Old Grog," the "nickname of Edward Vernon [...,] English admiral responsible for diluting the sailors' rum." Says MW11.

Of course, there's also the question of why Vernon was known as Old Grog.

Anyway, hoping your New Year is as ungroggy as can be reasonably expected.

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